My brother turned 25 on Saturday.
And while I could tell you a lot of reasons why this is significant, such as the fact that he is my only sibling and oldest friend or that he is the one person in this world who would talk to me on speakerphone the entire time I navigate through a detour in the city or who understands my parents in the way that we can just look at each other when we’re all having a family dinner and we’ll know exactly what the other person is thinking, I will tell you this instead, because this is important: he likes to eat. He really likes to eat. In fact, if quantity is any indicator, he likes it more than I do. He was, after all, the one who almost went to culinary school, the one who first took me to Swirlz and Bittersweet and Spacca Napoli.
So, after telling you that, I guess it should be obvious now what he and I’d do to celebrate his birthday. It’s what we would have done for mine, if we hadn’t been fresh off a trip to Maine in which I’d eaten everything in sight for three or four days already: We ate.
I can take no credit for any of the restaurant choices, as he picked them all, like he usually does when we hang out (and, can I just say, he picks the best places) but I enjoyed them all very much, so I thought to tell you because, you know, I like you guys the way I like sitting across the table from the kid who knew me when I was three.
First was brunch at beautiful Sola (3868 N Lincoln Ave), where we split the short rib Benedict and the five-spice waffle with a rhubarb compote and goat cheese, and I ordered the spearmint tea, only because it was the single decaf option, and it was heaven—pure heaven!—with cream and sugar. On a Saturday morning, there was no line (but you can make reservations through OpenTable.com, if you’re worried) and we had a nice view from our table of the fall colors lining Lincoln Avenue.
In Andersonville, we bought a box of the lemon almond truffle petit fours at Swedish Bakery (5348 North Clark Street)—his birthday cake for the day. I love everything about these tiny cakes, from the way the almond icing cracks when you bite in, to the moist and light centers that are lined with ribbons of lemon. You will not find better petit fours in this area, and yes, I have looked.
When we stopped back at his apartment in the afternoon, it was just long enough to catch a little television and slices of homemade pumpkin pie, which he’d made, complete with roasting the pumpkins, a few days earlier, from a recipe from our good friend Wendi, and I had another cup of tea that was also delicious.
(Yes, he really is doing dishes in the above picture, on his birthday.)
Then we did some walking, mostly around Wells Street and to Old Town Oil and the Spice House of last week’s food tour, because, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but: this is a beautiful time of year.
Dinner was at The Bristol (2152 N. Damen), the neighborhood eatery you may remember being mentioned here in the spring, when we’d stopped for a weekend brunch. Turns out dinner is just as fantastic. What we ordered: the crispy duck-fat fries with house ketchup and garlic aioli, the sweet apple salad with marinated manchego and hazelnuts, the savory monkey bread with sea salt and dill butter (best idea ever) and the smoked trout served with a hot potato salad—oh and for dessert, the homemade nutter butters with chocolate sabayon. Good heavens, that meal was perfect. In fact the whole day was pretty great, and if I took too many pictures, it was because, between us, it was the kind you want to hold onto.